From clearing the campsite to preparing firewood, a reliable axe is an essential tool to have. Depending on the task, an axe needs to have the right size, power, and construction quality. With some research and the right information, you’ll easily find the best axe for making the job both easier and quicker.
To help you narrow down your options, this article will present the best hatchets and axes to use around the campsite. Our hatchet reviews focus on offering a variety of sizes and designs, so you can get the right tool whether you wish to cut large trees or simply chop kindle wood.
How To Choose The Best Camping Hatchet Or Axe – Buying Guide
Use Around The Campsite
Before deciding on an axe or hatchet, you must think about how and where you’re going to use it. Even though the best models are highly versatile, it’s worth noting that a smaller product gives you more control while a larger one provides more power.
The most common reason for bringing an axe or hatchet is to make firewood, which is usually done by cutting off branches or splitting logs. If you want to cut down a tree, you’ll need a true axe for the job (two-handed, with a longer handle). It’s larger size will provide a powerful hit and save you a lot of effort. For smaller tasks, a hatchet will be just fine.
Another good use for your sharp blade is clearing an area for a camp. Finding a new and suitable spot for a camp isn’t always easy, so you often have to clear away trees and branches before you can lay down the gear and set up camp.
An axe or hatchet can also be a useful tool if you want to put up a camping hammock and need to make some poles or stakes. These are only some of the additional uses, but the most important thing is that you get the right size that will allow you to handle it easily.
Length Of The Handle
Length is the most important factor when it comes to power that your blade can generate. It’s also the main thing that separates an axe from a hatchet – an axe is longer and therefore generates more force. While it varies from one product to the other, hatchets are generally under 20 inches long, while axes are longer than that.
The force that you can exert when swinging an axe depends on two things – the mass of the blade and the speed at which it lands. Having a long handle means that you can swing the blade at a much greater speed and generate more force. This is important when considering which model will work best for your situation.
There are three main drawbacks to having an axe with a long handle. The first one is lack of control – the longer swing makes it more difficult to precisely determine where the blade is going to strike. To compensate for this, you can add more control by placing one of your hands further up the handle.
Another downside is the added weight that comes from the handle, which makes the axe harder to pick up and swing. If you want to swing it accurately, it will require much more strength. The additional weight also makes it less portable and harder to carry around.
Besides the extra weight, the length itself is going to make it less portable and more difficult to pack. Many smaller hatchets can easily fit into your backpack, but this isn’t possible with long axes.
The best length for your handle is going to depend on how you plan to use it. If you need to chop small branches and want more portability, go with a shorter handle. On the other hand, if you plan on cutting down trees, you should get a longer one.
Depending on the type of steel it’s made from, the weight of the head varies from one manufacturer to the next. Of course, the material used to make the handle plays a large role too. When talking about numbers, lighter hatchets can weigh less than 1 pound, while heavier axes often go over 4 pounds.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the force with which you can hit depends on swing speed and hatchet mass. Therefore, the heavier an object is, the more power it will be able to generate. If you are aiming to cut down larger pieces of wood, this is an important consideration.
On the other hand, getting a hatchet or an axe which is too heavy for you will be counterproductive because you won’t be able to use it effectively. You can only get the full power if you are able to swing through the blade at the proper speed. Keep in mind that chopping wood can be a strenuous exercise, and a heavy axe will tire you out quickly.
Due to this, it’s best that you get a model with balanced weight so that it has decent power but you can also swing it easily. If you only plan on making firewood, you won’t need a heavy axe anyway. But if you need to cut down trees or larger logs, we recommend going with something heavier.
In addition to the head, the handle is an equally important part of a high-quality axe. Not only does it improve the looks, but it also provides a firm grip so you can swing properly. Various materials are used for making the handles, each with its own pros and cons.
Wood: This is a more traditional type of handle, often seen on classic hatchet models. The wood of choice is usually hickory, known for its high level of durability. The handle is comfy to hold and often has an eyelet so you can thread a cord and secure it around your wrist. However, wooden handles can be very slippery when wet.
Plastic: Even though it doesn’t provide the same grip comfort like natural materials, plastic is a good choice for the handle. The reason for this is its textured surface make sure it won’t slip out of your hand, even when wet.
Leather: Leather handles rank highly in both comfort and grip firmness. It feels really nice in your hands, allowing you to continually strike the hatchet without getting sore. However, the long-term durability is questionable as the handle can get worn down over time.
Fiberglass: Similarly to plastic, a fiberglass handle is textured to give you a better grip. Fiberglass is very light too, which means that you can swing it at a greater speed. It may not rank the highest in comfort, but it will still feel good in your hand.
Rubber: Rubber has many similar qualities to leather in terms of both the grip and its very decent comfort. However, lower-quality rubber might start to chip away over time, so you want to make sure that it’s well made.
Head Material and Size
Almost all hatchet and axe heads are made from hardened forged steel. This is absolutely the best material when it comes to balancing between low weight and a high degree of strength required to get the job done. It has been the most popular material for many years now, and shows great durability over time.
The steel quality is one of the factors that determine the performance of your blade. Higher-quality carbon steel is incredibly sharp, effectively reducing the number of swings you need. However, they might also become dull faster, so keep this in mind.
In terms of head size, it depends on what your needs are and the size of the wood that you wish to cut. This is often in direct correlation to the length of the handle.
If you’ll be cutting smaller branches, having a large blade would only mean adding unnecessary weight. Generally speaking, hatchets will have slightly smaller heads compared to axes, making them easier to swing.
One more important consideration is that the head is held securely in place and doesn’t come loose. This is where modern designs have an advantage, as they are often made from a single molded piece that extends through the handle too. However, the best traditional hatchets will also stay in one piece for a long time.
There are three different options when it comes to the head type – a single head, a double head, or a spiked head. The single head is by far the most common type used for camping and consists of one blade on the front and a blunt surface on the back.
A double head has a sharp blade on both sides, which makes it look more like a medieval weapon than a useful camping tool. The added benefit of having two blades is having equal wear so it lasts for a longer time. However, a dual blade drastically decreases the safety of the product because you’ll be drawing the blade back towards you when taking a strike.
One more option that you can buy is a spiked head, with a blade on one side and a spike on the other. The spike usually resembles the one that you would usually find on a pickaxe. This can be a very useful tool in some scenarios but, like the two-bladed design, it also requires a higher degree of awareness when using.
Regardless of the material used to make the axe (wood, composite, or steel), all three types offer a high level of performance. However, there are a few differences between them. While a wooden product gives a more traditional look that many people prefer, it doesn’t offer the same level of grip and there is a higher chance of the head coming loose.
With composite products, the handle is often made from a light material such as fiberglass or plastic to reduce the overall weight of it. There is also less chance of the head coming off, as it will be secured very tightly into its fitting.
Hatchets made entirely of steel offer the highest level of safety, because the head doesn’t need to be secured to anything. This gives you peace of mind when using and significantly improves durability too. However, the extra steel will add to the overall weight of the product, so make sure that it isn’t too heavy for you to handle.
Lastly, it’s important to consider the shape of the handle. It’s best if the handle isn’t a straight line, to reduce the chance of accidentally losing control of it. Most high-quality products have a curved handle that prevents your hands from slipping and the axe from flying off. Additionally, having an eyelet hole on the bottom is also very useful as it allows securing the hatchet to your wrist.
Sharpness Of The Blade
The sharpness of the blade plays a key role in the overall effectiveness of your axe. A dull blade not only requires more effort, but it also increases the risk of injury.
To be sure the blade stays sharp for a long time, you should get a model made of high-quality steel. For optimal performance, it’s also important to check the blade’s edge before each trip and sharpen it if there is a need. Doing it regularly will improve performance and also protect the blade from uneven wear and even damage.
When carrying an axe or a hatchet, covering the blade is important for safety reasons. Sheaths can be made of a few different materials, but they all do a very good job of protecting the blade.
More traditional-looking hatchets with a wooden handle often come with a leather cover that does a great job, while also looking really nice and stylish. However, this also tends to be a bit more expensive and adds to the overall price of the hatchet.
Another popular option is a nylon sheath. While it may not sound like the greatest material on the face of it, it’s as tough as any other because the material is thick and easily stops the blade from cutting anything. The covers are thick and completely cushion the blade, so you have nothing to worry about.
Lastly, composite products often have a plastic cover that will reliably protect you from injuries as the hard plastic can’t be broken by the blade. One more benefit of having a plastic cover is reduced carrying weight, as this type is the lightest. As a bonus, many of these covers often have a handle on them which makes carrying a lot easier.
Q: What Is A Hatchet?
A hatchet is a small axe that is shorter in length for easier handling. However, the terms axe and hatchet are often used interchangeably, as there is no specific length that separates the two.
Broadly speaking, a hatchet can be used efficiently with one hand and works best for smaller jobs like cutting off branches or preparing firewood.
Q: What Is An Axe?
An axe is a blade that is attached to a long handle, used for heavy chopping tasks such as cutting down trees. Due to their size and weight, you usually need to use them with both hands. Additionally, their greater size gives them more cutting power so you’ll need fewer swings to chop wood.
Q: What Is A Tomahawk?
While it resembles a hatchet, a tomahawk was invented primarily as a weapon used in hand-to-hand combat or thrown. The design differences include a different head shape, as well as holes in the head and handle created to reduce weight. However, nowadays they are used in pretty much the same way as hatchets.
Q: What Is The Difference Between An Axe, A Hatchet, And A Tomahawk?
Even though the three of them look very similar, there are a few key differences. An axe is mainly used as a means to chop down large pieces of wood, while hatchets and tomahawks are better at handling smaller jobs. And, as we’ve mentioned, tomahawks were originally used as weapons and have a bit more aggressive style.
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Bringing a hatchet (or an axe) on a camping trip is bound to make your time outdoors more enjoyable. Whether you’re clearing some bushes or preparing a fire, this sharp tool helps you do your job. Hopefully, this guide has given you the answers you were looking for so that you can find a hatchet you’ll enjoy bringing on every adventure.